This book is a little hard to get into because it is essentially a transcript of a Seminar that Richard and John put on to discuss their views on Neuro-Linguistic Programming to other therapists... These are two of the founders of NLP and it was written in 1979, a time when NLP was trying to establish itself in the therapeutic community. This is readily apparent by the stabs the authors make at existing paradigms. The book does not mention which author is talking so it is difficult to get a grasp of who`s viewpoints are whoms, so it is assumed that both authors are in agreement with the concepts presented. If you get out of the mindset of expecting the concept of NLP being presented in an organized easy to understand manner, then one can glean some interesting information and pearls from this book that I will share.
The authors refer to themselves as modelers. Meaning they are masters of modeling others behaviors:
" We pay very little attention to what people say and a great deal of attention to what they do...The function of modeling is to arrive at descriptions which are useful....We're not offering you something that is true just things that are useful"
They take a certain pride in separating themselves apart from other branches of therapy in that most of the other fields "focus on truth and may or may not get results." However, they re-establish their status in the therapy field by modeling some of the greatest therapists in existence like Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson. There is included a therapy session by Satir with the authors explaining how she intuitively employs NLP by matching the client rather than trying to make the client match them.
They came up with the concept of "if what you do does not work, do something else," which you would think was intuitive. They go on to criticize other therapists who label their clients as "resistant" and accuse the non-NLP therapist that they are shifting the blame of poor results to the client when they should simply be trying something else. To cement this concept they offered discuss an experiment from the eighties where the B.J Skinner did work with rats and mazes. One day, he decided to add humans to the experiment. Over several weeks he performed the experiment where he taught the rats or human to run thru a maze for the reward of cheese or a 5 dollar bill found at the end of the maze. Of course, he noticed the humans were quicker learners as expected. Further results were counter intuitive. When he tried to extinguish the behavior by removing the reward found at the end of the maze, it became interesting. After multiple attempts the rats no longer attempted to run the maze...."however, the humans never stopped!! They are still there! They break into the lab at night looking for 5 dollar bills at the end of the maze." That is the peculiar trait about human beings. "If they find something they can do that does not work, they do it again." Thus the concept of "if what you do does not work, do something else." I could not help but to have visions of Las Vegas and people putting their life savings into the slot machines looking for the reward at the end of the maze.
There was an intriguing sentence on matching where they discussed representational systems and said that to establish good rapport one merely had to match the predicated words of the other person's representational system. But if you want to alienate the other person you could deliberately mismatch the predicates. This skill could be very useful in situation where one would not want to converse like on an airplane.
Another pearl was their view on what words mean. "Words are triggers that tend to bring into your consciousness certain parts of your experience and not others." So you cannot hear a word without having an associative experience. Since everyone's experience is different. everyone's perception of a word will be slightly different. This is called slippage. There is a slippage between the words and a persons experience as well as a slippage between two peoples corresponding experience for the same word. This is their explanation for maps of reality although they do not distinctly label it as such.
The authors went into a great deal of detail explaining to the audience how to attain visual acuity with respect to the eye motions indicating a person's representational system that they are using. They did this with putting several audience members on stage and then asking them questions to see exactly what their body language and eye directions were. They went into greater detail with assessing one audience member as " leads visually, represents kinesthetically and then has an auditory reference system check which tells him that his feelings are valid" I think part of this detail was to impress their audience with complexity rather than present an easily duplicatable system.
They do offer hope in their view of humans. They see people as having only a few strategies. That is why they are good at some things but not others. But by increasing the number of strategies available to a person, they claim that "if any human can do something then so can you." I do agree with this statement as I attribute my life's successes on the ability to successfully model other people's behaviors.
Bandler and Grinder have a unique definition of conscious and unconsciousness. They state that the conscious is defined as whatever you are aware of at that moment in time and subconscious is everything else" Which puts a more tangible definition of what the unconscious mind is, as most definitions quantify it as a limitless entity.
During the seminar the author made a large arc arm movement that startled people. He explained the startled feeling by saying that the hand motion unconsciously told people to process what he was saying auditorily and that it knocked any visual based pictures out of the air. He stated that "if you can determine what a persons lead and representational systems are, you can package information in a way that is irresistible for them" He goes on to say that "the meaning of communication is the response that you get, if you are not getting what you want, change what you are doing." This is similar to Genie Labourde's viewpoint.
The authors site a good explanation for the NLP dictate to not use a negative when discussing a desired outcome. They refer to a child who is instructed "not to fall down." In order for the child to understand the sentence they have to refer to their internal representation of falling down. That internal representation will result in the behavior the parent is trying to prevent. Positive instructions "like pay attention to your balance and move slowly" can yield a more positive outcome.
Concepts from earlier books by the same authors, The Structure of Magic, were reviewed with respect to the metamodel of eliciting more specific responses to questions. The authors demonstrated several examples of metamodel questions. They said to do NLP well one must have mastery over the metamodel questions, otherwise techniques will be sloppy. "Metamodel questions are the questions that really give you the appropriate information immediately"
The second day of the book discusses mirroring and crossover mirroring, gives some example of anchoring and collapsing of anchors and past experiences that the authors had with clients. Overall not as interesting as the fist day as they are merely trying to show the therapists how they have used NLP in their practices.
The third day, discussed states and several organizing principles of states which we find useful. The first principle is that it is better to have choice than no choice. It is the therapist's job to broaden the clients' choices. The second is the notion of unconscious choice. This is where a behavior is exhibited because it fulfills a need even though it is counter to a person's stated conscious desire. For example, overeating as a way of compensating for a failing marriage. The third in that people already have the resources they need in order to change, if they can be helped to use them in the appropriate context. Again, the bally wick of the successful therapist. The forth is that each and every single piece of behavior has a positive function in some context and there is a difference between the behavior and the intention. So when someone exhibits bizarre behavior that is a good signal to you that the person is responding to something that is not available to the typical observers' sensory experience. They are responding to some internal represented thought that is giving them an intended positive experience even though they will not consciously admit it. This is evident when examining unhealthy behaviors that fulfill a secondary gain of some sort. Examples are given on how to reframe these unhealthy behaviors by resolving the conflict between conscious desires and the program that provides a secondary gain. Reframing is accomplished by having the client's sub-personalities talk the situation out and come up with alternative behaviors that serve the whole. If the behavior does not change or reverts, that is a sign that the new kind of behavior was not as effective at fulfilling the sub personalities desires in a congruent way and the discussion must begin anew. Several real life examples are given.
Over all a deep book for my first introduction to NLP. I found myself breezing it rather than reading it because of its more sophisticated intended audience of therapists. After studying Genie Labourde's book a lot of what Bandler and Grinder discussed made more sense than it did when I re-read the book with more knowledgeable eyes. However, I could not shake the feeling that they could have presented the information in a different way and it would have made more sense to all audiences and not been so dry. I got the impression that they were fulfilling the publishers request for this years books and that they didn't write one. The way they spoke in the book, they seemed to be the cowboys of their field. This is evident in the way they buck traditional therapeutics themes and their sometimes irreverent examples of their own therapy experiences with other clients. But sometimes it takes cowboys to rope the existing therapeutic community into seeing a new concept. Bandler and Grinder are perceived to be some of the godfathers of NLP, as such, I am glad to have experienced the book, but aside from its historic perspective, I do no recommend it to the novice NLP student